High-flying Kawasaki Frontale maintained their slender lead atop the J. League first division on Saturday despite being held to a 1-1 draw away to 10-man Oita Trinita on Saturday.
Kawasaki remains one point clear after closest rivals Urawa Reds and defending champions Gamba Osaka both drew but Kashima Antlers made ground on the leaders with a 2-0 win over bottom club Cerezo Osaka.
Kengo Nakamura pounced to give Kawasaki a 26th-minute lead after Kazuki Ganaha’s header had come back off the post but Brazilian midfielder Tulio leveled with a long-range free kick just before the interval.
Oita had defender Taikai Uemoto sent off for a second bookable offense midway through the second period but Kawasaki were unable to capitalize on their numerical advantage as both teams wilted in steamy conditions at Kyushu Oil Dome.
At Expo Stadium, Gamba looked to be on course to take pole position after veteran defender Satoshi Yamaguchi’s towering header gave the home side a 2-0 cushion after 62 minutes.
But draw specialists Fukuoka refused to roll over and Kazunori Iio pulled one back before Gamba ‘keeper Yosuke Fujigaya made a hash of Iio’s cross from the right and allowed Hokuto Nakamura to snap up the loose ball and salvage a point with three minutes remaining.
Urawa drew 1-1 but needed a well-taken equalizer from Japan international Alessandro Santos to avoid a shock defeat to Ventforet Kofu, who had deservedly taken the lead through Ken Fujita’s first league goal shortly after the hour mark.
Kashima was always in control of its match against lowly Cerezo but left it late to break down the visitors and record a win that moved them within three points of Kawasaki.
Elsewhere, Shimizu S-Pulse moved into fifth place after running out 2-0 winners over Shizuoka rivals Jubilo Iwata, Hisato Sato was on target twice to lift Sanfrecce Hiroshima to a 2-0 win away to FC Tokyo, while a 47th-minute header from Toninho proved decisive as Omiya Ardija edged 10-man Kyoto Purple Sanga 1-0 at home.
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